Jargon hunter

The IT industry collects acronyms and obscure terminology faster than, well, the Internet collects pornography and viruses. For better or for worse, the following terms are the ones that made the news in 2001.



800-pound gorilla: Where does an 800-pound gorilla sit? Anywhere he wants. It’s an old joke, but that hasn’t stopped vendors from latching onto it. It refers to the leader in any given market. Most vendors still possess just enough humility to prevent them from referring to themselves as 800-pound gorillas. It’s used more often by small firms to refer to large firms. The subtext in these cases is “they’re a bully.”

Downsizing: It was one blow after another for the IT industry as companies fell like dominos to the economic downturn, then were faced with the unenviable task of cutting their ranks to increase their bottom lines. Some executives found the term “right-sizing” more palatable.

DRM: Digital Rights Management (DRM) was a popular topic for watercooler politics in early 2001 after Napster became something other than the guy who nods off at his desk. Microsoft came down with the DRM doldrums in October after a hacker calling himself Beale Screamer did an end run around the electronic protection that prevents Windows media files from being copied.

EAM: Enterprise asset management was a relative newcomer to the enterprise software scene in 2001 (see also xRM). For example, Bayer Inc. turned to Indus International Inc. for an EAM suite in its Sarnia, Ont., rubber factory to replace the legacy system also supplied by Indus back in 1994.

EBP (EBPP): Few can decide if the acronym should be one P or two Ps, but either way it adds up to electronic bill presentment and payment. The idea of paying bills online actually took a few steps closer to reality in 2001. In April Electronic post office Epost added The Bay and Zellers, retail chains owned by the Hudson’s Bay Co., to its electronic bill payment operation. In July, U.S.-based CheckFree Corp. hires an all-Canadian sales and marketing team to go after the billing business this side of the border. Governments, from municipal to provincial to federal, continue to make strides in their Web portals for citizen and business services.

Incubator: Also known as, “For the love of God, please don’t call me an incubator.” The term became virtually synonymous with financial disaster in 2001 and corporate financiers sought to distance themselves from it.
The University of Toronto Innovations Foundation, for example, opened Exceler@tor, a not-for-profit quasi-incubator, in December, but insisted it is not, in fact, an incubator. “The Exceler@tor does not take equity in the companies and provide funding,” Exceler@tor managing director Andrew Maxwell says. “We encourage people to go to the most appropriate place for financing.”

Insert letter here-commerce: Perhaps the final nail in the dot-com coffin. The dash-commerce phenomenon, popular in 2000, began to die out in 2001. Virtually every letter of the alphabet was co-opted. Some of the more unpopular ones proved to be k-commerce (kiosk commerce), m-commerce (mobile commerce) and t-commerce (television-commerce). E-commerce, however, remains a staple.

Outsourcing: Second only to Web services (see below) in terms of term popularity, but this one actually saw some considerable results. EDS, IBM Global Services, Bell Emergis, CGI all signed colossal deals with customers looking to take the IT load out of their own enterprises.

“One throat to choke”: Let’s call it one part cut-throat, one part stranglehold. The term refers to multiple, integrated solutions supplied by a single vendor. “Buyers want one throat to choke – one person to do the hardware, the software and we at J.D. Edwards have drifted away from that,” admitted J.D. Edwards CEO Ed McVaney during its annual Focus conference, held in July.

RISC: Perhaps should now be referred to as RISC-y business. Reduced Instruction Set Computing (RISC) servers took a serious hit when both Compaq and Hewlett-Packard announced they will discontinue their respective RISC platforms in favour of Intel’s Itanium. Gartner estimates HP’s 3000 RISC server has been in steady decline for several years.

War driving: Matthew Broderick almost triggering World War III wasn’t enough — hackers had to take it one step further. “War driving” was adapted from “war dialing,” as featured in the movie War Games, which involves rapid dialing of phone numbers in an effort to locate vulnerable computer connections.
In July, research firm KPMG points to the real threat of hackers breaking, or war driving, into internal corporate networks. All hackers need is an antenna, a wireless network card and software that can be easily downloaded from the Internet.

Web services: Overwhelmingly the most invoked IT term in 2001 which saw the fewest results. Microsoft was the first to jump aboard the Web services bandwagon with its .Net initiative, closely followed by Oracle with its copycat .Now. In December, Larry Ellison defended his company’s entry, but refered to the idea that Web services can cure what ails the IT industry as “monumental idiocy.”

xRM: It’s difficult to isolate the one thing that bugs ITBusiness.ca staff the most, but the sheer, overwhelming, crushing volume of acronyms for enterprise software is a worthy candidate. CRM (Customer Relationship Management), ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), SCM (Supply Chain Management), ERM (Employee Relationship Management, and to make matters worse, Enterprise Resource Management), VRM (Visitor Relationship Management) . . . The list goes on and on and on. (See also EAM.)

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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